“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
Our LORD having just described the way of eternal life as being strait and narrow, immediately warns His sheep of men who will creep in unawares, who appear as sheep but are in reality, inwardly, ravening wolves. Most of us remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and the lessons to beware of the wolf in that story.
The question is, how are those who are the LORD’S sheep to discern a wolf from a sheep? Thankfully, the Scriptures are clear. Here are 3 ways that we are told how to discern. The first being right after our LORD’S direct warning in Matthew 7:15.
Test #1- “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” Matthew 7:16. By their fruits, is a reference to their followers, and those who hold such in high esteem, and not so much their conduct. Wolves will always attempt, by their conduct, to fool people into following them, and will do what they can to gather as many followers after themselves. Their interest is not pointing sinners to Christ, as the apostle Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 11:1-“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” A true follower of Christ is but a sheep among sheep, following Christ.
Test #2- They promote a works righteousness and not that which is exclusively of God in, by, and through the LORD Jesus Christ- 2 Corinthians 11:14,15. If Satan himself masquerades as a false angel of light, it should not surprise us that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. The Pharisees were outwardly righteous before men; and yet false teachers. They had a form of godliness, and worked to keep it up in the eyes of men, though they were strangers to the TRUE GODLINESS, which is God in the flesh, 1 Timothy 3:16. You cannot lead sinners to an end where you yourself have never been. These are blind leaders of the blind, so regardless of their fruits (their converts), they remain blind still, to the ONE TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS, Who is the LORD Jesus Christ, and that righteousness that He came, earned, and established, and God imputed once for all to His elect, there at the cross.
Test #3- They can only be Spiritually discerned, by the work of the Spirit in the heart- 1 Cor. 2:14. To be a Christian, is to be born of the Spirit of God. Those born of the Spirit (the sheep) have the Spirit in them, not just for conversion, but for their keeping. Christ said, “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers,” John 10:5. The Spirit of God, teaches Christ’s redeemed ones of Him, from the inspired Word, and continually draws them to Christ, as revealed in the Word. Any who teach of Christ, contrary to the Word are but carnal, no matter how logical their teaching is to those who follow them. However, Christ’s sheep will flee such, and run to HIM Who came in the flesh and finished their righteousness, and Who is ALL their righteousness.
The sum of the revealed Truth is in the Doctrine concerning Christ’s person and work. False teachers speak doctrine in terms of the world, according to its logic. They are careful not to offend carnal men, therefore the world approves of them. The world will love its own, and its own will love it. True Spirit revealed Doctrine draws the sheep to the Savior's person, and leads them away from man-centered doctrine to the Truth as it is in Christ alone. This is a mark of the Spirit of Truth in opposition to the spirit of error. The more pure and holy any Doctrine is to set forth the LORD Jesus and His complete work of salvation, by His obedience unto death, the more likely it is to be of God. You can never give too much glory to the LORD Jesus.